I’d never heard of Upstock to be honest, and Havelock North founder Phil Fierlinger, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Upstock isn’t for you and me, unless you’re in the food service trade. It’s sort of an online place for ‘shops to shop’. With Upstock, gone are the days of a chef scribbling an unreadable note by the phone reminding someone to order more eggs, only to discover later that someone else had already done it.
Upstock is deceptively simple, as most clever things are, and no surprises really, from someone who used to be Head of Design for Xero, a company once described by Forbes as the most innovative growth company in the world. “Design isn’t just about making things look pretty,” Phil explains. “It’s about making things useful and usable.”
The way Phil tells it, Upstock happened by chance. A mate who is involved with the iconic ‘Foxton Fizz’ brand was looking for a simplified way to streamline his ordering for his customers and got Phil to look into it. “My first thought,” he explains “was, oh this is an e-commerce solution, there’s plenty of those.” Turns out there wasn’t, at least not for businesses, and so, well here we are.
At its most basic, Upstock helps save time and waste, which in the food industry can be massive. One UN report estimated that if food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest carbon emitter in the world.
But beyond inventory management the real genius of Upstock is the marketplace it creates. With over 30,000 buyers connecting with 1,000 or so suppliers and over 100,000 different products, buyers have a whole new product line-up to choose from, and sellers get in front of a whole new customer set. In the Bay, companies like Bostock are sellers and Bellatinos are buyers, whereas Brave Brewing and Bay Espresso are both.
Having always used a recipe as a loose guide, with varying degrees of success, I press Phil to see if there’s a consumer version in the works. Sadly not. “Consumer behaviour is quite different,” says Phil politely. “Retail customers have a different set of expectations to the wholesale trade.” Which I pick up as code for ‘we’re difficult’.
In any case there’s enough to keep Phil and the Upstock team of 26 more than busy. Roughly 10% of the business is in Australia, and in 2024 they’re gearing up for a big push into the states. Onwards, and very much upwards.